Flap Reconstruction for Soft-Tissue Defects With Exposed Hardware Following Deep Infection After Internal Fixation of Ankle Fractures

Injury. 2014 Dec;45(12):2029-34. doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2014.10.006.


The aim of the present study was to determine the outcome for patients treated with flap reconstruction following deep ankle fracture infection with exposed hardware. Out of 3041 consecutive ankle fracture operations in 3030 patients from 2006 to 2011, we identified 56 patients requiring flap reconstruction following deep infection. Thirty-two of these patients could be examined at a follow-up visit. Olerud-Molander Ankle (OMA) score, 15D score, Numeric Rating Scale (NRS), and clinical examination were used to assess the outcome. A total of 58 flap reconstructions were performed in 56 patients with a mean age of 57 years (range 25–93 years) and mean follow-up time of 52 months. The most commonly used reconstruction was a distally based peroneus brevis muscle flap with a split-thickness skin graft. A microvascular free flap was required in only one patient. 22 (39%) patients required subsequent surgical interventions because of a flap-related complication. With flap reconstruction, hardware could eventually be salvaged in 53% of patients with a non-consolidated fracture. The mean OMA score was fair or poor in 53% of the patients, and only 56% had recovered their pre-injury level of function. Half of the patients had shoe wear limitations. The 15D score showed a significantly poorer health-related quality of life compared to an age-standardised sample of the general population. The mean pain NRS was 2.1 (range 0–6), and the mean satisfaction NRS was 6.6 (range 0–10). Our study showed that successful treatment of a soft-tissue defect with exposed hardware following ankle fracture infections can be achieved with local flaps. Despite eventual reconstructive success, complications are common. Patients perceive a poorer health-related quality of life, have shoe wear limitations, and only half of them achieve their pre-injury level of function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ankle Fractures / epidemiology
  • Ankle Fractures / surgery*
  • Debridement / methods*
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Fracture Fixation, Internal / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data*
  • Quality of Life
  • Reconstructive Surgical Procedures / methods*
  • Skin Transplantation
  • Surgical Flaps
  • Surgical Wound Infection / epidemiology
  • Surgical Wound Infection / psychology
  • Surgical Wound Infection / surgery*